The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) has increased the livelihood assistance to repatriated and distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III announced yesterday.

He said the OWWA board approved the increase from P10,000 to P20,000 to enhance the livelihood assistance known as Balik Pinas, Balik Hanapbuhay program for displaced OFWs. Bello chairs the OWWA board.

This program helps our modern day heroes in their reintegration and as they look for other means of income. We encourage them to engage in small and medium enterprises, Bello said.

Under the program, beneficiaries are also given access to skills training provided by TESDA, the Department of Trade and Industry and other agencies.

The program was initially a non-cash livelihood assistance package provided to beneficiaries through entrepreneurial training and provision of a 'starter kit' worth P10,000.00. But in order to hasten the process of OFW reintegration, the livelihood support component was converted to cash assistance, which also includes entrepreneurship development training to enhance the business and management capabilities of OFW beneficiaries.

Aside from cash assistance, OWWA also refers beneficiaries to DTI and the Department of Agriculture (DA), among others, to improve their marketing skills and strategies to sustain and further expand the awarded livelihood assistance.

The essence of BPBH is to teach OFWs to be their 'own bosses,' since the businesses will be their own. They should be able to sustain and make it as their primary means of livelihood and have a good revolving capital. Hopefully, our OFW beneficiaries can transform themselves into good entrepreneurs, OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said.

Early this week, Bello and Cacdac awarded P20,000.00 cash assistance each to more than 30 distressed and displaced OFWs and urged them to stay in the Philippines and establish their own businesses.

The program is for returning OWWA members, active or non-active who were displaced by hostilities or wars/political conflicts; victims of illegal recruitment or human trafficking or other distressful situations; and OWWA-members who were employed by foreign employers which are beset with financial difficulties.

Qualified OFWs with queries regarding the program are encouraged to log on to OWWA website at www.owwa.gov.ph, or contact numbers 8917601 up to 24, local 5217; or the OWWA OPCEN thru telephone numbers 833-6992 or mobile number/SMS 09175908654.

Source: DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT REPUBLIC OF PHILIPPINES